Historic Coastal Retreat That Once Housed Infamous Cult Is Transformed Into Luxury Hotel

Lodge at Marconi, overlooking Tomales Bay, is now welcoming guests after a multi-million-dollar renovation. Take a look.

After a multi-million-dollar renovation, the historic Marconi Conference Center in West Marin has been transformed into Lodge at Marconi, a luxury hotel property located within the 62-acre Marconi State Historic Park just south of Marshall.

The Marshall site has a storied past. Originally home to native Coast Miwok, it was turned into a signal-receiving station in 1912 by Guglielmo Marconi, often credited as the inventor of radio.  (Though the 270-foot towers that once anchored a mile-long antenna are gone, many historic buildings constructed for the Marconi Wireless Company remain.)

Then, in the 1960s, the Marconi property became the headquarters for Synanon, a drug rehabilitation program that turned into an “alternative lifestyle community” before eventually becoming the Church of Synanon in 1975. After allegations of violent activity and subsequent investigations that led to the controversial cult’s demise, the property was purchased by the philanthropic San Francisco Foundation and was eventually gifted to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 1989, to be used as a nonprofit conference center.

After its moment of infamy, the West Marin property and its conference center have remained unknown to many. In 2022, the grounds were acquired by Nashville-based Oliver Hospitality, as part of a 55-year lease agreement. The hotel and restaurant management company then started the process of renovating the existing hotel rooms and event spaces tucked away on the 62-acre property.

“People have no idea that we exist. We’re just starting to get the word out, which is really exciting,” said Leah Fritts Vitali, hotel manager of the Lodge at Marconi. “Restoring these old, cool buildings is very satisfying.”

Lodge at Marconi guestroom
Guest room at Lodge at Marconi. (Lodge at Marconi)

Reimagined retreat

The renovated property overlooking Tomales Bay features 45 rooms and suites, all designed with a natural color palette that is inspired by the surrounding forested landscape. Thoughtful and interesting touches, including Heath Ceramic tiles and mustard colored, retro-looking phones, can be found throughout but no two rooms are exactly alike.

Spread throughout four buildings, accommodations range from rooms with king or queen beds to quarters with lofts that are ideal for families or groups of friends. All quarters have modern amenities, including refrigerators, electric kettles and Wi-Fi, but there are no televisions.

The reimagined lodging is inviting and comfortable, but it’s the coastal West Marin location that’s truly the star of the show. Almost five miles of trails crisscross the property, revealing picturesque views of Tomales Bay and Point Reyes and, for those who are curious in the property’s past, remnants of Marconi’s transmission towers. Picnic tables abound and there’s even a basketball court, volleyball and assorted lawn games, such as croquet and horseshoes, to help guests while away a day in the great outdoors.

The renovation and reopening of the Lodge is the first of many planned updates to the property. Still to come: a sauna, onsite restaurant and day spa with fitness center and guided yoga, as well as the renovation and reopening of the historic cottages that dot the state park. Programming including guided hikes, bird watching, beach bonfires and more is also in the works.

Rates at Lodge at Marconi start at $299 per night. There is no daily resort fee or charge for parking. The property is pet-friendly; there is a one-time $50 pet fee. 18500 Highway 1, Marshall, 415-663-9020, lodgeatmarconi.com